Attend ICC hearings

The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) is urging all consumers in Illinois’ 815 region to speak out against the needless burden of a proposed new area code at seven public forums scheduled by state regulators in April.

The Rockford hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m., April 11 at Rockford City Hall, 425 E. State St., in the Council Chambers, 2nd floor.

The forums are in response to the telephone industry’s proposal to create a new area code in the 815 region, which will lead to dialing headaches and needless costs for consumers and businesses forced to make the change, according to CUB.

Phone companies say increased demand for cell phones, pagers, fax machines and the Internet has led to a “shortage” of phone numbers and the need for new area codes throughout Illinois. However, CUB asserts the real culprits are the phone companies themselves and their mismanagement of the phone number supply. In fact, state regulators estimate that just 30 percent of all phone numbers in the 815 region are actually being used by customers. CUB says many of the rest are being wasted and hoarded by phone companies.

“There’s no need for a new area code in the 815 region,” Randy Fritz, president of CUB’s Board of Directors, said. “Phone companies don’t have a shortage of numbers—just a shortage of common sense. It’s vital that consumers in 815 give state regulators a clear message: A new area code is a completely unnecessary hassle. It’s time for this nonsense to stop.”

CUB has worked to stop what they say is the phone industry’s waste and mismanagement of numbers. The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) adopted CUB’s number conservation plan in suburban Chicago’s 847 region, where it held off a new area code for more than four years, even though the phone industry did not fully cooperate with the plan, and the ICC did not aggressively enforce it.

Now, the state agency is deciding whether to implement an area code split, in which part of 815 becomes a new area code, or an overlay area code, which will share the same boundaries as 815. CUB argues that neither option is needed.

A split means that some consumers in the 815 region would have to change their area code, forcing them to spend time and money to update business cards, letterhead, signs, Internet dial-up numbers, security systems and direct-dial features.

An overlay area code would bring its own dialing hassles because the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) mandates 11-digit dialing wherever an overlay area code is created. That means all customers in the 815 region would be forced to dial 11 digits (one plus the area code plus the seven-digit number) for all phone calls, whether they’re calling across the country or across the street.

“A new area code, whether it’s a split or an overlay, will bring needless dialing headaches and costs to 815 consumers,” Fritz said. “The phone companies’ waste and mismanagement of numbers must stop. Phone numbers are a public resource, not the private property of the phone industry.”

CUB is a nonprofit, statewide utility watchdog group created by the Illinois legislature to represent the interests of residential and small-business utility consumers. For more information visit or call CUB’s Consumer Hotline at 1-800-669-5556.

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